It is very important to strengthen the cooperation between Central European countries and better connect the north and south of Central Europe, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said at the start of her two-day official visit to Bratislava on Wednesday.

Speaking at a joint press conference after meeting her Slovak counterpart Andrej Kiska, Grabar-Kitarovic said she was a strong advocate of the idea of cooperation in Central Europe and thanked Kiska for supporting stronger ties between the north and south of Central Europe, between the Baltic Sea in the north and the Adriatic and the Black Sea in the south.

The areas in which ties should be strengthened are infrastructure, primarily transport infrastructure, and energy, in order to ensure independence and diversification of energy sources, as well as economic relations, digitisation and contacts among people, the Croatian president said.

She highlighted benefits of the construction of an LNG terminal on Krk island and an interconnection with Hungary and Ukraine, adding that they would ensure the necessary diversification of energy sources and energy independence, which would also contribute to political stability and a fall in prices on our markets.

The port of Rijeka has huge potential and connecting it with Budapest via Zagreb, as well as with Vienna and Bratislava and further on, would secure a way for these countries to sell their goods on global markets and would also ensure that goods from around the world are distributed on the Central European market much faster than by other routes, Grabar-Kitarovic said.

Grabar-Kitarovic underscored the closeness of Croatia and Slovakia and their people, saying that they had shared a huge legacy for centuries. The Croatian minority in Slovakia and the Slovak minority in Croatia are further bridges of our friendship, she added.

The Croatian president said that both Slovakia and Croatia gave priority to their economic cooperation, which should be expanded in all areas, including through  joint ventures on third markets and linking of clusters. In this context she said the Slovak car industry could link up with Croatian car part manufacturers.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that Croatia strongly supported EU consolidation in Southeast Europe and the Euro-Atlantic integration of all countries in the region as a prerequisite for lasting peace and prosperity in that part of Europe.

Kiska said that bilateral relations with Croatia were traditionally very good, noting that both countries were facing similar challenges in the EU. He added that countries with such a small number of people needed to better position themselves in the Union.

Slovakia and Croatia are very close countries, not just because of their membership in the EU and NATO, but also because Croatia has always been a friend of Slovakia. We can say that the Croatian sea is also the Slovak sea because every year it is visited by 370,000 Slovak tourists, Kiska said.

Economic subjects were an important part of the talks because the Croatian president was accompanied by a large group of business people who will attend an economic summit with their Slovak colleagues. Also discussed were issues concerning energy and migrations.

As for EU enlargement and consolidation, we are agreed that countries which aspire for EU membership and meet the necessary criteria should not encounter additional obstacles, the Slovak president said.

During her visit, the Croatian president also met with Prime Minister Robert Fico and Parliament Speaker Peter Pellegrini. She and Kiska are scheduled to attend the opening of the Slovak-Croatian economic forum and meet with representatives of the Croatian minority in Slovakia.

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